There's a little something for everyone waiting in this perilous stretch of the Sierra Tarahumare. Millions – no, billions – of dollars' worth of uranium! A fiancé assumed dead for some three years who may still be alive and kicking! Perhaps a shot at redemption for a failed oil baron! And – just maybe – an opportunity for a new romance to bloom!
Awww, who cares if the Mexican government rejects Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) and her impassioned pleas for an expedition? She has a plane, a pilot, and plenty of pluck. As long as there's some chance of Susan holding Bruce in her arms once again, her three compatriots can indulge whatever ulterior motives they have to their hearts' content. But that's the thing about mixing hopelessly isolated locales with gobs of radiation; everything's just...
life. Susan's team is quickly divided into two factions: those in search of wealth, and those in search of Bruce. There's a ticking clock to this expedition too; there's only so much radiation they can be subjected to before they're transformed into something fantastic themselves. Oh, yeah, and there's a cyclops too. Eventually.
As much as I live for vintage sci-fi/horror, this one's middle of the pack at best. It's pretty daring to title a movie "The Cyclops" only to not show that towering giant until the final twenty minutes. (Okay, sure, there's some first person Cyclops-Vision prior to that.) The expedition rarely finds itself directly in harm's way; the gigantic creepy crawlies are kind of just there, not all that ravenous for people-sized nummies. This extends to some extent to the cyclops, who doesn't exactly have bloodlust in his eyes...errr, eye, at least not until provoked. He's introduced barricading Susan and company in a cave, and the four of them take a lengthy stab at communicating with him from there. Logical, yes. Pulse-pounding thrills, not so much.
Bert I. Gordon's direction is no great shakes. The character drama is uninvolving. I'd better satiate my cravings for giant creatures and cyclopses with a double feature of Mysterious Island and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, especially since Harryhausen's creations far more convincingly exist in the same space as the actors. And while it's not treated as a twist, exactly, even those who've never gotten around to watching The Cyclops are almost certainly several steps ahead of the expedition about the fate Bruce suffered.
With so few threats of imminent danger and less than inspired visual effects, there's little to distract from how routine The Cyclops really is. Even a sequence with the expedition trying to sneak by the sleeping giant fails to generate any real tension. On the other hand, I love the grotesque design of the scarred cyclops with his hairlip, and, yes, that bloody spear removal remains wholly intact. There's certainly nothing to complain about with the cast, which includes scream queen Gloria Talbott (The Leech Woman), Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man), and Dean Parkin, who's no stranger to playing colossal beasts. Parkin isn't the only one bringing the cyclops to life; legendary voice actor Paul Frees contributes its many grunts, groans, and primal yells.
We're talking about Irradiated Monster Comfort Food here, with all the familiar setpieces, pseudo-scientific explanations, women in peril, and daring escapes you'd expect. There's something to be said for its lean runtime, which prevents The Cyclops from getting too distracted by love triangles or backstabbing. You won't have to wait long for the first giant creature, and they keep coming at a fairly steady clip after that. And, yeah, there is an element of tragedy that resonates at least a little more deeply than usual. The Cyclops won't be mistaken as a great movie, but it's not without its charms. Recommended to anyone interested enough to still be reading. And hey, whether you're a cult cineaste seeking it out for the first time or a longtime admirer rewatching through nostalgic goggles, Warner Archive has certainly ensured that The Cyclops is a sight to behold.
Even if you only have one good eye, you're still gonna walk away impressed:
Just look at it! The effects may not always be up to snuff – what with semi-translucent monster lizards and fuzzy sleeping giants – but for the overwhelming majority of its runtime, The Cyclops is a knockout. This newly-remastered presentation is surreally crisp and overflowing with detail. The exceptionally fine sheen of grain is reproduced beautifully as well, with The Cyclops' AVC encode showing no signs of strain. Shots contrasting the teeny adventurers with the irradiated beasts unavoidably lose a bit of fidelity, and some shots in this run-and-gun production are soft besides, but by and large...? Wow.
The Cyclops is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and arrives on a BD-25 disc. Given that the film clocks in at a lean 66 minutes, there's really no need for a second layer.
Oh, if only I could be so giddy about The Cyclops' lossless audio. Presented in two-channel mono, this 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is prone to clipping. This pervades the entire film, starting from the opening theme and creeping into nearly every cue, sound effect, and line of dialogue:
When Susan or the titular cyclops scream, the audio devolves into almost pure static:
It's a shame because The Cyclops is aurally impressive in so many other ways. A throaty low-end reinforces the colossal roars. What background noise is present can easily be shrugged off, and there aren't any dropouts or the like to speak of. But, oof, that edgy, lightly distorted quality to so much of the film does not make for a pleasant listen.
Also included is a set of optional English (SDH) subtitles.
Maybe there's no need to bulletpoint when there's just one extra to list, but this additional effort is why I get paid the big bucks.
The Final Word
Whaddya say, pal? Thumbs up? Thumbs down?
Yeah, I think I'm landing somewhere in the middle too. The Cyclops is unapologetically formulaic and doesn't bother with much more than tepid thrills. Still, like Warner Archive's release of From Hell It Came, the siren song of lesser '50s genre cinema can still be too much to resist. No matter what you think of the film itself, there's no denying how indescribably gorgeous it looks on Blu-ray, although the clipping in the audio does drag down my enthusiasm a bit. Still Recommended if you know what you're getting yourself into.